7 TED Talks About Choice
If you’ve spent some time on this blog then you know, I believe in the power of choice. I think our ability to choose (and not choose) is one of the most important, if not most important ability we have to create a life on our own terms. But the concept of choice is not always so simple. There are many factors that play into our ability to make good choices. Whether it’s about the way we express ourselves, who we decide to be, or the way we choose to see the world around us, our choices come with as many potential landmines as they do benefits.
Below are 7 TED talks that approach the world of choice from differing perspectives and in different contexts. For many, more choices can mean more freedom, but for others, it can mean slavery. Here are a few ideas to consider when deciding what choice means to you.
1. Are We In Control of Our Own Decisions? By Dan Ariely
We often feel, when making decisions, we have the information we need to make an informed one. Dan Ariely suggests that we rarely do. According to Dan, in this talk, our information is typically wrong, either because it’s incomplete, lacks context and nuance, or includes bias some level of bias, for example. Because of these and many other reasons, our ability to see clearly and make choices based on our true interests is much more limited than we think.
2. A Broken Body Isn’t a Broken Person by Janine Shepard
Janine was an athlete with her whole life ahead of her. As a member of the Australian Ski Team training for the Olympics, she went out biking with her teammates on one fateful day and was hit by a truck. Badly injured, she was rushed to the hospital where she spent the next 10 day of her life in a coma, straddling the lines between life and death. She woke up in her hospital bed 10 days later to a body she didn’t recognize, a body badly broken, and was told she’d never walk again; that she’d never again live a normal life. As she fought through recovery and depression, she slowly began to put the pieces of her life back together again. It was then that she chose to be a victor, not a victim, to choose victory over defeat. And so, she decided if she couldn’t walk then she’d learn how to fly. Eventually, she learned to do both.
3. How to Make Stress Your Friend by Kelly McGonigal
We’re taught to believe stress is bad for our health and that it should be avoided at all costs, but according to health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, stress isn’t bad all. The way we choose to think about stress, however, could be the difference between life and death. In this talk, she shares scientific research that demonstrates how our ideas and beliefs about stress have much more of an impact on our health than the stress itself. She explains why this may be true and how we can use this information to live healthier happier lives.
4. The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar
Is more choice better? Psyco-economist, Sheena Iyengar, says: not necessarily. We, in western society, have come to believe that the more choice we have the more likely it is that we’ll choose something that makes us happy. Not so, says science. In study after study, we find that beyond a certain point choice can actually have a negligible effect on happiness. Moreover, Sheena notes that the way we view choice in our lives also depends on whether we see ourselves more from an individualized perspective or from within the context of a larger community or group.
5. A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success by Alain de Botton
What does success mean to you? This is the quintessential question writer/philosopher Alain de Botton suggests we must choose to answer for ourselves.
The world is filled with answers to this question – colliding answers, contrasting answers. If we choose, instead, to accept the world’s definition of success, whichever version that may be, we’ll never be at peace and will forever be vulnerable to the scrutiny and judgment of others. Everyone has an opinion, agenda, and perspective – from which our success is deemed valid or not. Though we may never please everyone, we can please ourselves if we choose to define our own success instead. Choosing our own standards of success releases us from the need for validation and sets us up nicely for self-satisfaction.
6. How to Gain Control of Your Free Time by Laura Vanderkam
When it comes to taking on a new project, confirming an appointment, or even sleeping an extra hour – we either have time for it, or we don’t. At least that’s what we’d like to tell ourselves. Author Laura Vanderkam disagrees. After studying the way busy and successful people spend their time Laura suggests, it’s not about how much time we have, it’s about how we choose to spend our time. Choosing to build our life around our priorities – the people, things, and events that matter to us – creates time for them. Laura goes on to share effective strategies for defining priorities and organizing our life in a manner that ensures our priorities are, in fact, given the time they deserve.
7. How to Make Hard Choices by Ruth Chang
“Hard choices are hard not because of us or our ignorance, they’re hard because there is no best option.”
Analysis paralysis is often the result of finding ourselves caught between two or more options of similar costs and benefits. This is what philosopher Ruth Chang describes as a hard choice. Our lives are filled with hard choices, both big and small. Our ability to handle hard choices will likely affect the quality of our life, and learning how to make and deal with the aftermath of a hard choice is paramount to our happiness and well-being.